Williams still seeking solutions for ditch

Published 9:39 pm Friday, January 14, 2011

Decades have rolled by, grant applications have been filed and failed and City Hall has continually changed faces, but Ruthie Williams ditch remains.

Williams moved into her East Decatur Street residence in 1972. Two years later, she her efforts to find a solution for the considerable drainage ditch that runs between the two properties she owns.

“Since this is my property on this side and that one too, I’d like to just stop it up,” Williams said from her side of what, at times, appears to be Ruthie’s River.

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The ditch is approximately eight feet deep in spots, stretching as wide as about 10 feet in certain areas. The standing water presents the biggest problems, providing a considerable stench while also attracting its share of undesirable creatures.

“There are rattlesnakes,” Williams said. “But the mosquitoes are worse because you can at least see the snakes.”

In addition to the practical problems, the ditch presents aesthetic issues that can greatly affect property value.

“What are you going to fix it for? Ain’t nobody gonna buy it,” Williams said of her desire to upgrade the house that sits on the property. “No need dto do any upgrading when you’ve got this bad ditch.”

Williams’ efforts to get the ditch fixed have gone through a number of mayors and city councils, all with the same results. The issue, according to the city council, has been funding.

The biggest issue comes in that Williams’ big problem is only a portion of a larger problem. The ditch next to Williams’ house continues for several city blocks.

“What it is is a problem,” Grayson said. “We’re going to have to bring in some funds. This council neesd to open discussion as to whether this is something we’re going to try to correct. If so, how are we going to try to correct it.”

Williams’ presence at the Jan. 6 city council meeting prompted the first discussion of the matter under Grayson’s watch. The last time Williams took the matter to the powers that be, it prompted a grant application for the Northeast Drainage Project.

Correcting all of the issues associated with the ditch would mean maintaining the functionality of the drains throughout the canal as well as tending to the aesthetics of the ditch.

A 2008 grant application would have secured nearly $1.4 million for the project, covering 75 percent of the total cost. The city council at the time voted to set aside $486, 268 from its reserves to cover the remainder of the costs.

But the application failed and the ditch outside Williams’ house and other nearby homes remains.

“That’s what all of them come up and say,” Williams said of continually being informed of failed grant applications. “Don’t do anything.”

Grayson said tackling the project again will be up to the council, but cautions that even a successful effort may take years to reach fruition.